Monday, 31 August 2009

Trust, bad debts, and the economy as a whole

My whole business strategy is based on trust. Software and hardware vendors trust that when I sign a non-disclosure agreement, I won’t reveal their secrets ahead of the scheduled launch day. Companies that send me review units of hardware and software trust that I will actually review the unit and publish the review. And if organizations ask me to write something for them, I trust that they will pay me for it.

And this usually works very well. I’ve never published an article about a product that hasn’t been formally announced. And I’ve always written and published (somewhere) reviews of hardware and software I’ve been sent.

It’s the other side of the trust equation that has, from time to time, been a problem in varying degrees. For example, one company that advertised on the Virtual IMS Connection Web site (, which my company looks after, were sometimes a bit slow to pay their monthly invoice.

Technical Support magazine got further and further behind with payments for articles a few years ago until they eventually stopped publishing. The good news – for me and other contributors – is that they eventually paid all their outstanding debts. So well done to them, our trust was eventually rewarded.

On the whole, organizations that have asked me to write articles or internal documentation for them have been very good at paying at the agreed time. Similarly with the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook (, sponsors and advertisers have been generally good at paying on time. Our trust relationship worked. But being a smaller company, iTech-Ed ( needs to receive payments when promised because it has commitments to other companies that have got to be met. If company A withholds a payment to company B, then company B either has to withhold payments to company C or incur bank charges for a temporary overdraft. And finally, somewhere along the line in these days of credit crunch, someone is going to owe the bank so much that they’ll cease trading altogether.

I wrote a short article for a company a few years ago. Shortly after I sent the article, the company disappeared! Its Web presence was gone and no e-mails were ever replied to. It was the first (and last) time that I ever wrote for that organization and I lost an afternoon’s work. The trust relationship was completely broken.

More worrying for me, is when an article I have written at an agreed price has been published on the Internet, but the commissioning organization don’t pay at the agreed time and then stop replying to e-mails! I’m perfectly happy for quotes from my blogs or other articles to be quoted by other bloggers or article writers. That’s great – and it happens all the time. What I’m irritated about is companies that agree a price, commission an article, publish it, and then don’t pay. No matter how much the article costs, it’s cash flow for smaller companies that keeps the economy going – and that thing called trust.

I wrote an article entitled “Which browser is best for me” for Sift Media back in April. It’s now September and they still haven’t paid up. Perhaps, you’re thinking, that they didn’t publish it. Well, you can find it at and you can find a reference to it at It’s also apparently mentioned at and and,128756.html.

Which all seems like Accounting Web, which is owned by Sift Media, got good mileage out of my work.

The point I want to make – to large and small companies alike – is pay your bills on time. Putting someone on 90 days or more before you pay, puts the whole economy at risk simply because small amounts of money moving rapidly from one organization to another can lead to larger amounts changing hands, and soon the economy is back on its feet and we are all benefiting. One slow payer or one bad debt puts a spanner in the works for everyone! And, of course, breaks any trust that exists between two companies.

No comments: